April 07, 2017
Soybeans appear on track to remain Alabama farmers' top crop, if planting predictions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hold.
State farmers are expected to plant 450,000 acres of soybeans this year, a 7 percent increase over last year's crop of 420,000 acres. Those projections align with national predictions where USDA forecasts a record 89.5 million acres of soybeans will be planted, a 7 percent increase over last year.
Last fall’s drought, plus low commodity prices, also may be driving Alabama farmers' decisions to plant more cotton and peanuts but less corn, said Alabama Farmers Federation's Carla Hornady.
"Commodity prices, weather and farmers' ability to make a profit always play heavily into planting decisions," said Hornady, the Federation's Cotton, Soybean and Wheat & Feed Grain divisions director. "The drought last fall sharply reduced the amount of winter wheat and oats that were planted. Profit potential for cotton and peanuts are thought to be better this year, plus a lot of farmers believe improved cotton varieties did well despite last year’s hot, dry summer and fall."
The USDA released its prospective planting report March 31, which showed Alabama with a sharp reduction in winter wheat acres, down from 230,000 acres last year to 160,000 this year, a 30 percent drop.
The drought is probably the reason fewer oats were planted, too, Hornady said. Acreage for the state dropped from 50,000 acres to 40,000 — a 20 percent decrease.
USDA reported 330,000 acres of corn planted in Alabama for 2016, and 240,000 acres are expected this year, a 27 percent drop.
The state’s cotton acreage is expected to rise 25 percent from 345,000 acres last year to 430,000 this year, the report said.
Peanut acreage is predicted to jump from 175,000 acres last year to 190,000 acres — a 9 percent increase.
Hay acreage dipped slightly since last year with projections of 800,000 acres in 2017 compared to 810,000 in 2016.
Hornady said while the prospective planting report is based on the most accurate data available, other factors could impact farmers' decisions until seeds are planted.
"The one thing we still can't predict is the weather," Hornady said. "Farmers do everything they can to make a good crop by using the best seeds and the latest technology. If there is a silver lining to last year's drought, it could be that more farmers will invest in irrigation."